Features

In addition to news and reviews, Theme Park Adventure often takes a closer look at the people and attractions that are shaping the themed entertainment industry. These are our Features…

Grinchmas 2016 Brings Wholiday Cheer to Universal Studios Hollywood

Universal Studios Hollywood is trimming up the tree once again with its annual Grinchmas event, which continues to take place select dates now through January 1, 2017.

Grinchmas is of course, based on the classic book by Dr. Seuss, How The Grinch Stole Christmas! Universal Studios Hollywood has hosted the annual event for years now, and while aspects of it may be losing some of its luster, guests visiting the Los Angeles theme park certainly seem to enjoy the celebration.

The star attraction of Grinchmas is The Grinch, followed by all of the Whos that populate Whoville, which has a temporary home in Universal Plaza on the parks Upper Lot, as well as the more permanent set location on the Backlot, which is seen by guests riding the Studio Tour. Visitors on the Studio Tour stop at the set from the 2000 Ron Howard re-telling of the popular Christmas tale, and are treated to a short song and dance medley which features the beloved classic, “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch”.

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Sinister Pointe’s Not So Merry Holiday Haunt 2016 Delivers Adult Humor and Twisted Surprises

Sinister Pointe has always been on the cutting edge of innovative haunt-centric attractions here in Southern California. In 2011, the company broke through the traditional Halloween season barrier and introduced its Not So Merry Holiday Haunt concept for the first time – an adults-only event using the same footprint as the existing haunted attraction, but redressing much of it with Christmas props, costumes and soundscape. Everyone went nuts for the Holiday Haunt, and curious fans came from far and near to see the raunchy spectacle for themselves.

The Holiday Haunt continued for two more Christmas seasons in the company’s long-time location in Orange County before going dark after the 2013 Christmas season. In the years that followed, Sinister Pointe has explored other ventures and opportunities despite fans asking without fail each year if the Holiday Haunt would return. When Jeff Schiefelbein and his crew announced the return of the Not So Merry Holiday Haunt for Christmas 2016, fans were thrilled; we were too, as this over-the-top holiday attraction had also become one of our favorite annual events.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The following story contains images and a video that are not suitable for children. Please exercise care when browsing in mixed company or around minors. Some of the content below is NSFW and will be considered offensive to some individuals. The embedded video is Age Restricted, as to add a layer of protection for our readers.

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Queen Mary’s CHILL 2016 Features Enchanting All-New Alice in Winterland Theme

queen-mary-chill-2016_6One of the biggest holiday events in Southern California is CHILL, held each year at the Queen Mary in Long Beach, California. We went this past weekend to check it out, and although Mother Nature decided it was time for some much-needed rain here in the Southland, we had a really fun time exploring everything offered at this year’s CHILL. The popular winter event takes place just off the ship, including the massive dome where Howard Hughes’ Spruce Goose used to reside.

In years past, the largest component of CHILL was its Ice Kingdom attraction – a collection of very impressive ice sculptures, including a reproduction of the Queen Mary’s bow and several ice slides for guests to enjoy. The ice sculptures were featured at the event for the past 4 years, and so, management decided it was time to change things up – if guests are coming back each Christmas season to enjoy CHILL, it’s got to be kept fresh and evolving, otherwise interest will begin to fade. Change things up is exactly what they’ve done this year with the introduction of Alice in Winterland, a large-scale walk-through interactive attraction developed for Queen Mary by Mycotoo, a creative design firm in Los Angeles. TPAers may recall that Mycotoo also developed this year’s new maze, Aftermath 2: Chaos Rising, for Six Flags Magic Mountain’s Fright Fest.

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Santa’s Village in California Opening Date Set for December 2, 2016

sv4It’s been a long time coming, but it appears that Santa’s Village in the San Bernardino National Forest finally has an opening date – December 2, 2016.

When it was first announced that the beloved old theme park in Skyforest had been bought by businessman/realtor Bill Johnson in 2014, fans everywhere became very excited; rightfully so. After closing its gates in 1998, the defunct Christmas-themed park sat abandoned and neglected for years, its wonderful old rides and whimsical buildings falling into a sad state of disrepair and ruin. Vandals left their mark on the closed park, as did the harsh seasons on the mountain just miles from Lake Arrowhead. Over the years, occasional interest was sparked by news of a potential buyer – but nothing ever came of it. When the property was purchased by Johnson, that was a huge step in the right direction, giving us all hope that the little theme park might be restored and returned to operation with a lot of love and a truckload of investment money. The price tag in 2014 for Santa’s Village was reported to be in the neighborhood of $5-6 million. When the 154-acre property was purchased, we cautioned strongly beginning with our May 15, 2014 story about the park possibly re-opening that it would require a lot more than that to get the property back up to modern codes, rebuild its infrastructure, add new attractions, and hire a year-round team, along with seasonal employees.

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A Tour of Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Hollywood With Supervising Art Director Alan Gilmore

Wizarding World Hollywood 2016_5589From the door knobs to the aged walls and textured flooring. From original merchandise to table tops in Three Broomsticks. These authentic details are an integral part to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, and Supervising Art Director Alan Gilmore has a story to tell behind it all. Gilmore worked on the Harry Potter films as an Art Director, and was brought on to work cohesively with Universal Creative to bring Hogsmeade to life and help translate the film design into a real place.

“I’ve learned so much with them [Universal Creative]. It’s been a really fascinating journey for the last seven years with us working together,” Gilmore explained to a group of us as we walked together into the Wizarding World.

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Wizarding World of Harry Potter Soft Opens at Universal Studios Hollywood

Wizarding World of Harry Potter Hollywood Soft OpenAt about 2:45 PM on February 12, 2016, history was made here in Los Angeles as the Wizarding World of Harry Potter soft-opened for the first time to park guests at Universal Studios Hollywood. The moment marked the end of a long journey that began on December 6, 2011, when Universal made the official announcement that Harry and the gang from Hogwarts would indeed, be coming to Southern California. Since then, Universal Studios Hollywood has embarked on an unprecedented growth spurt – a transformation unlike the property has ever seen.

You may find yourself asking what a “soft open” actually is, and that’s a valid question. The term “soft open” is often used in themed entertainment (and other industries) when it comes to new rides and attractions that are in their preview stage. Once a new attraction is ready for its first guests and a series of technical/dress rehearsals, it will often be put into operation during park operating hours, allowing guests the opportunity to experience it unannounced. Not only is this a thrilling revelation for guests – it’s an important period for the park in question to start understanding guest flow patterns, focus on tweaks and adjustments, and to really polish the show before the grand opening date arrives. Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Hollywood is now in its soft open stage. It’s very important to point out however, that a soft open period also comes with risk and uncertainty to guests arriving with the expectation that the attraction in question will actually be operational. In the weeks to come, Universal will be adjusting various aspects of the new land and its attractions. Guests may or may not be allowed into the area, and should understand that if you go to Universal Studios Hollywood prior to April 7, there absolutely is a chance that Potter may not be available, or that one of the land’s two attractions may not be operational. If you happen to own an annual pass, a soft open period can be a “safe bet” because you really have nothing to lose – except a few hours if you choose to wait around for the area to open. However, if you are planning on visiting and buying a ticket to get in to Universal and are expecting to experience the Wizarding World in all of its glory, you really should wait until after April 7, to ensure the land is opening and everything is ready to roll.

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TPA Mixers at Don the Beachcomber off to a Great Start in 2016

Winter Nights at Don's January 2016It’s hard to believe we’re already two month into 2016, but we are! With the temperature a chilly 86 degrees outside, it’s definitely wintertime here in Southern California, as El Nino plows into us with wave after wave of devastating storms. At this rate, we may never see summer. It’s a good thing we have each other to raise our spirits and keep each other warm and safe inside the Hidden Village at Don the Beachcomber as our mixers continue in this new year!

On the evening of Sunday, January 17th, more than 100 theme park fans and haunt enthusiasts gathered at the famous tiki restaurant in Huntington Beach to kick off our Winter Nights at Don’s 2016 gatherings! It was tremendous to see everyone come together after the holidays, and ring in the new year together with potent tropical cocktails and exotic (okay, not so exotic) eats and treats!

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Parturition – a Beautiful and Emotional Experience is Born

ParturitionI walked alone onto Lankershim Blvd. in North Hollywood feeling rather emotional. It was dark, almost 2:00 AM, and I was still processing the beauty of what I just experienced. I felt confused as to why I felt so emotional about something that was supposed to be scary for most – it was really an odd feeling. What I experienced was Parturition – a “highly individualized 25-30 minute experience through the beginning stages of life.”

With such a vague description, most wouldn’t quite understand what type of attraction this is. I was fortunate enough to experience Screenshot Productions’ first show last October called Fear is What We Learned Here. It was unique, surreal, dream-like and completely mysterious. From what everyone thought would be another 18+, “sign this waiver” and “walk through alone” type of haunt, it wasn’t really that at all. I was really impressed by how professional and different the approach was, and was already immediately looking forward to their next production. It wasn’t a haunt. “Boo” scares didn’t exist there. Fear Is What We Learned Here’s intent was to play with your mind (and scare it) – not just physically. I had a sense of what to expect once I received information on Parturition, but this time it wasn’t about fear… it was about my birth.

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Universal Studios Hollywood at a Glance – Lunar New Year, Harry Potter and More

Universal Studios Hollywood (11)Universal Studios Hollywood is currently undergoing its biggest physical transformation ever, in preparation for the April 7, 2016 opening of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Everywhere you look, there is major construction underway, from the brand-new E.T. Parking structure, to finishing touches being put on Hogsmeade as we speak. With an April hard open date announced, fans are expecting that we could have soft open (industry term for “preview”) dates as soon as mid-February. In short, it’s about to get real here in Los Angeles, and all eyes are on Universal.

We made our way up the hill to Universal Studios this past weekend and braved the rain and blustery weather conditions to see what we could see and bring TPAers a brief update – quite honestly, possibly the final update regarding Potter before we actually get to experience it, if the soft open rumors are true.

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Knott’s Scary Farm Returning Mazes and Attractions 2015 Review

Knott's Scary Farm 2015 ReviewIn October, we brought you a detailed look and review of everything new at Knott’s Scary Farm, including Paranormal, Inc. and Dead of Winter. This past Halloween season was monstrous in scope for us, to say the least; with 46 stops along the way between mid-September and the beginning of November, the amount of images, video and content in general that we collected is completely nuts! Now that we’ve moved out of the Halloween season, we’ve been sorting everything out and presenting it to you bit by bit here on the site; most folks who have been Theme Park Adventure fans for any duration of time will tell you – around here, Halloween is the gift that keeps on giving! That said, it’s finally time to circle back to the granddaddy of them all, and finish our review of Knott’s Scary Farm 2015 with a look at the mazes and attractions that returned this year to Buena Park.

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